Saturday, August 12, 2023

Chief Tyrant Officer rules EPF and that’s not OK, say workers

Amir Hamzah
AMIR Hamzah Azizan has helmed nearly a dozen companies, including GLC giant Tenaga Nasional, and in all those years at the top has probably never been called a “tyrant” before. 

But now the generally timid trade unions of the Employee Provident Fund, where he has been CEO since March 2021 (when Muhyiddin Yasin was PM), are calling Amir Hamzah’s management zalim, which is Malay for tyrannical, a title accorded to Firaun in biblical times and, in more recent times, to Dr Mahathir. Surely, something any CEO can do without especially if he or she harbours any ambition to climb to the highest rung of the GLC ladder. 

The trade unions are sore with Amir’s administration for allowing a pay gap cancer to permeate and give birth to a “caste system” between EPF’s top managers earning fat pay checks and ordinary workers who take home crumbs. 

Worse, the workers seem to have closed the door for discussions with the management, tired of being ignored time and again by the management, they claimed. They are now demanding that the Prime Minister steps in to help resolve the dispute.

I don’t know how big the salary disparity in the EPF is or how much Amir Hamzah takes home compared with the salary he pays, say, Ahmad Hamzah the trade union leader. I’m sure Malaysians in general are not bothered how much Amir is paid or how generous he is with his top managers or how much the Minister of Finance (who is also the PMX) allows the directors of EPF to reward themselves. But so often we see low-income workers in this country getting poorer and poorer compared with their bosses and that is something we (ie the employers) need to consciously address if we truly aspire for a more just and equitable society. 

The EPF, which was the 4th largest pensions fund in Asia in 2020 and 7th in the world before the pandemic (its income in the first quarter of 2023 was RM16 billion, 3 per cent more than the corresponding quarter of 2022), is the body entrusted to safeguard the interests of 15 million workers in the private sector who mandatorily contribute 12 per cent of their income to it. 

As I see it, the EPF can’t be doing a great job (for the millions of contributing workers) if it can’t even rein in - or please - its own 5,700 workers.  


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